Two years ago I had dinner at ArtBar. You can read my review of that visit here. On that first visit I dined on the patio, which sits right on the Charles River, and it is easily one of the best outdoor dining spaces in the city. Since my first visit, there have been significant changes in the management of the restaurant, including a new chef and a new approach to the menu. I returned to ArtBar this year to sample some vegetarian offerings from their spring menu.
The meal started with a dish of a very good hummus and bread. Throughout the meal, I tried both regular and non-alcoholic cocktails created by bar manager Elizabeth Powell, my favorite being the Pressure, made with ginger, grapefruit shrub, agave, lime, honeycomb and CO2. Elizabeth makes her own syrups and infusions, lending fresh flavors to many of the cocktails.
Burrata with lavender honey, chili and basil oil, and mache. It is really hard to go wrong with burrata. The bread that accompanied was wonderfully chewy and a nice match for the creamy, milky Fiore di Nonno burrata. The honey and oils added subtle sweet and spicy notes and the crisp mache provided a grassy contrast to the cheese.
Spring Pea Soup with Marcona almonds and mint. The soup arrived in a pitcher and is poured on top of the almonds in a bowl. The soup had a velvety texture and a smoky cumin flavor, the almonds adding a slight sweetness and crunch to the starchy peas.
Spring Vegetable “Stew” with baby vegetables, lentils, parmesan crusted polenta and pea greens. This was a really well-executed entree. I see why they put the word stew in quotes on the menu as that term is somewhat misleading. This dish was lighter and more spring-like than how I think of a stew. The plate starts with a heaping pile of perfectly cooked beluga lentils mixed with tender baby carrots, pattypan squash and haricots vert in a warm, rich broth. Atop the vegetables sit two thick pieces of polenta. The polenta was creamy and dense on the inside with a crisp, browned exterior. The broth became a perfect sauce with which to soak the polenta. This is a hearty and satisfying vegetarian entree if ever there was one.
House Made Cavatelli with peppercorn, fresh herbs, morels, spring onion and shaved Vermont Ayr. I haven’t had cavatelli many times before. The cavatelli had a nice ridged texture and chewy consistency. The mushrooms, cheese and herbs melded together into a rich sauce that coated the pasta.
Almond Streusel Cake with caramel poached peaches. The base is a thin layer of delicate almond cake, followed by a thick layer of almond-flavored mousse and finished with sliced almond streusel topping. The peaches were not terribly flavorful, and while this did not detract from the overall plate, a succulent poached peach would complement the almond flavor nicely. There was a lightness to this dessert and while I will happily eat decadent, sweet desserts all the livelong day, this was a refreshing alternative.
Honey Vanilla Cake with fresh berry compote. The day I tried this dessert, the cake part left something to be desired, though I do know the chef has tweaked the recipe since. This cake is both vegan and gluten free, and while it is possible to make a good cake with these limitations, it is difficult. But the berry compote alone was delicious, the berries lightly cooked to bring out the juices but still maintaining their shape. Just this compote plus the frosting would make an excellent vegan and gluten-free dessert.
It is always a delight when a restaurant puts thought and effort into its vegetarian offerings. Beyond being a courtesy to those who don’t eat meat and want more than one basic option, it’s a testament to a chef’s skill that they know how to expertly incorporate vegetables, beans, and grains into a satisfying dish.
90 Edwin H Land Blvd
This meal was provided compliments of ArtBar.